Thursday, 30 September 2010

Ground the Drones!

The recent Hull meeting on the use of drones in warfare was in-depth. Drones are horrendous killing machines being used by the coalition to deal death from the air, often from so far away that they can't be seen.

Chris Cole of national CAAT led the input. The USAF has 116 Predators and 28 Reapers. Each Reaper costs $11 million, has a $1m camera and is as dangerous as a fighter jet - it can drop 500lb laser guided bombs. The Predator can fly 2 miles high - and for 24 hours at a time.

Drones have a huge capability and are changing the face of war. But what if you target the wrong people? "We have the resources to make sure we're right!" comes the reply from the military spokesman.

In the peace movement, we get information of their usage in Pakistan but we get nothing from the media on their use in Afghanistan. It's the wrong story.

Meanwhile the CIA is hard at work in Pakistan making plans "to do bad things to bad people". But drones aren't THAT effective. The reaction from those targeted has come in terms of suicide bombing and revenge attacks, a tradition among the tribes of the region. Drone attacks have led to decreased security and to threats such as the Time Square bomb, an act of revenge for a drone strike.

The use of drones, their remote control and targeting, usually from thousands of miles away, has led Philip Alston of the UN to call it a "PlayStation Mentality", where you pay little or no attention to the "enemy" you've just "neutralised". In one recent attack there were a number of children and civilians in a convoy. The drone operators played this down; the controllers were merely reprimanded.

Some drones can be flown 24 hours a day, so their operators are constantly looking for targets. Furthermore, there is evidence of their use in assassinations, something America has vowed not to do.

The use of drones has become SOP, Standard Operating Procedure. The CIA has its own fleet of Reapers and Predators which are based in Afghanistan. The Blackwater company (now "Xe") operate these drones, a privatised death from the sky. Under American law it is unlawful to assassinate, even moreso in Pakistan where there is not even a declared war. The operation, they say, falls into an "accountability void". This broadening out of their usage may have already become indiscriminate.

Martin Deane for Hull CAAT

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